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How IFoA volunteers create our outputs

The IFoA is always trying to create an impact, influencing the public, policy-makers and the industries actuaries work in. We couldn’t do that without members like you driving our programme of reports, research, and guidance.

It’s no exaggeration to say that everything the IFoA does is driven by volunteers – working in partnership with our executive staff.

To show how this happens, we asked IFoA Senior Policy Analyst, Catherine Burtle, to tell us about a recent high-profile policy project, run as a partnership between volunteers and the IFoA executive.

Saving for Retirement

Volunteers on the Pensions Board began the process, deciding in 2016 to establish a Saving for Retirement Working Party to produce work in an area in which they thought the actuarial voice would add value. The group was tasked with looking at developing rules of thumb that could help people understand how much to save for an adequate retirement income.

Catherine said: “It was a joint effort to produce the Savings Goals for Retirement report, between Henry Thompson and myself in the Policy team, and the members who volunteered to be part of this working party, in particular, the Chair, Stephen Hyams, and the Chair of the Pensions Board, Mark Williams.

“Mark and Stephen played key roles. Mark guided the messaging, Stephen ran the numbers and explained the assumptions that had gone into the work, and the executive team built this into an impactful narrative, led by an understanding of the wider pensions policy context.”

Catherine worked with the IFoA’s communications team to design the final report, to get it published on the website and promoted on social media, and to seek media coverage.

“Stephen wrote a blog for the website, which we used to promote the work, and his report to the working party was also written up as a feature article for The Actuary.”

Being Heard

“The findings of the report were written up as an exclusive in the Financial Times, and the story was picked up by more than ten other news outlets.

“We also used the topic of pensions adequacy as the basis for an event at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2019 and off the back of this event we have secured a meeting with the Pensions Minister to brief him on the findings of the paper. Mark will, of course, be a part of this, as our subject matter expert.”

Other volunteer outputs in 2019

Similar stories could be told around other IFoA projects, from high-profile reports on the funding of social care (which led to the IFoA presenting evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee), member-led research on cashless society and infrastructure financing, to more technical research and guidance around Equity Release Mortgages, IFRS17, and our practical guides on climate change issues in financial services.

All of these outputs were initiated, guided by and fronted by IFoA volunteers – mostly members in the actuarial profession, but also including some lay volunteers from other fields – working alongside the policy and public affairs team.

“Teaming the knowledge, expertise, and skills of our volunteers with that of the executive team is a winning combination, especially when we can all bring something different to the table. We love helping spread the word about the great work actuaries do, but couldn’t do that without the time and effort of our volunteers,” said Catherine.

Global reach

Many of the volunteers involved in these projects made their contributions remotely, from wherever in the world they are based, without having to travel to IFoA offices.

Recognising the increasingly global environments within which actuaries work and the importance of perspectives from many countries is vital. Steve Wilson – himself Zurich-based and with many years working internationally – is a member of the Committee for Lifelong Learning in Risk Management.

He said: “Increasingly, whole projects can be completed without the team ever being in the same room - or indeed, without ever physically meeting. The capability to bring together talents from all over the world is critical for the profession to retain its position as a thought leader.”

And, indeed, even leadership roles can now be undertaken remotely. Between 2017 and 2019, the General Insurance Practice Board was chaired by Martin Noble, based in Hong Kong.

He said: “As meeting chair, you need to work a little harder on a conference or video calls to ensure engagement from others. But, crucially, it enables greater participation from others, wherever they may be based, and that adds to our diversity and insight.”

We recognise that IFoA volunteering is evolving and want to not only make it easy for members to get involved from anywhere around the globe, but we also recognise it is easier to spare the time if there is no requirement to travel.

New Digital Volunteer Recognition Pin

Indeed, we recently introduced a Digital Pin, to recognise our volunteers in the digital world. It is for use on email signatures and sharing on social media so that volunteers can display their commitment to the profession and encourage colleagues and peers to volunteer, as we do with original silver volunteer recognition lapel pins that have been popular for so long for in-person meetings and events.

Volunteer satisfaction survey 2020

To ensure that we listen to feedback from our volunteers, we run an annual volunteer satisfaction survey, and this survey is currently open and has been sent to all who support the IFoA. 

If you have supported the IFoA through a volunteer role during 2019/2020, please take a moment to share your feedback before 5 February. If you do not think you have received the survey or you would like to receive a digital pin, please contact Debbie Atkins, Head of Engagement.